Open letter from the American Iranian Council to Iran's Nuclear Negotiation Delegation
By American Iranian Council
The Honorable Iranian Delegation to Nuclear Talks,
The Moscow talks that are set to occur on the 18th and 19th of June is of great sensitivity and significance. A precarious setback as a result of failed Moscow talks is that shortly after the conclusion of the talks sanctions on the central bank of Iran by the United States on June 28th, and the embargo on Iranian crude oil export by the European Union (EU) on July 1st will come into effect. The honorable delegation is certainly aware of these imminent sanctions; yet a short explanation could be helpful to the continuation of this discussion.
The latest U.S. sanctions legislation against Iran transcends American borders. According to the new law any country that buys oil from Iran through the Iranian Central Bank would be subject to American sanctions. In addition, the EU, which receives 20% of Iran’s oil exports, will be placing an embargo on Iranian oil as of July 1st. How severely the EU and the U.S. will pursue these sanctions depends on the outcome of the Moscow negotiations.
Failure to reach an agreement in Moscow brings with it the danger of harsh sanctions. The Debkafile, Israeli based open source military intelligence website, quoting a Washington source on June 4 says:
“In the fall, the US administration will bring out its most potent economic weapon: an embargo on aircraft and sea vessels visiting Iranian ports. Any national airline or international aircraft touching down in Iran will be barred from US and West European airports. The same rule will apply to private and government-owned vessels, including oil tankers. Calling in at an Iranian port will automatically preclude them from entry to a US or European harbor. This sanction would launch an air and naval siege on the Islamic Republic without a shot being fired”.
The Debkafile report is in line with statements on June 4 by the US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Richard Cohen. While praising the creativity of Israelis in offering ideas with respect to the sanction regimes, he assured the world that, “if we don't get a breakthrough in Moscow there is no question we will continue to ratchet up the pressure."
In Iran some may argue that both the Debkafile report and Richard Cohen’s statement are part and parcel of a psychological warfare in order to place pressure on Iran to force it to make major concessions in Moscow. It is conceivable that non-military naval and air siege might have been proposed as means to intimidate Iran into conceding; however, the proponents of this assumption have not presented a convincing argument that the West would not proceed with such a plan if Moscow talks fail. In other words, while it is true that the discussion about the option (of a non-military siege) might be interpreted as a coercive maneuver, it does not rule out the possibility of implementation of such measures in the event of failure of the Moscow talks.
Our principal intention in writing this letter is to elucidate the following points, which we believe can prevent failure of the negotiations, or at least diminish the risk of future crises:
- If the United States decides to seriously pursue the sanction plan discussed above, it will target the major customers of Iranian oil in Asia, i.e., India, China, Japan and South Korea, who under normal conditions are importers of 62% of Iran’s oil export. If the U.S. can successfully convince these Asian countries to considerably reduce their import, this will place extreme pressure on the Iranian economy. Keeping this in mind, two points are important to make. Firstly, due to the immense pressure that the enforcement of the new law would impose on Iran’s economy the US-Iran conflict will enter a new phase. If, in addition to the sanctions, the economic air and naval blockade were to be implemented Iran would have no choice but to confront. Intensified by warmongers, this new phase of conflict will most likely than not lead to a full-scale military confrontation.
Secondly, the Iranian delegation and policymakers should be aware and include in their calculations, that when U.S. policymakers pass a law it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse that law. For example, sanctions that were imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime were only lifted in 2009, six years after the U.S. took control of Iraq. Thus, worrying are the new sanctions because of the current political climate in the United States. The recent sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran which will come into force by the executive order of the President on June 28th , due to the extreme pressure of the far right and the Israeli supporters, cannot be easily moderated by the president, even though he has the authority to punish or forgive those countries who deal with Iran.
- Iran’s nuclear issue informs part of Iran’s foreign policy. Rationality and maxims of foreign policy set by the Supreme Leader, “dignity, wisdom, and expediency” dictate that Iran’s approach towards nuclear negotiations be very calculated and logical, and that sentimental and reactionary approaches be avoided. This does not mean that national pride should be entirely forgotten. It rather means that foreign policy issues are not supposed to just revolve around national dignity. As it repeatedly appears, many in Iran out of the three principles of “dignity, wisdom, and expediency” tend to enjoy only the first one with no regards for wisdom and pragmatism.
- It is crucial that Iran put forth proposals that are meaningful, realistic, and logical. Including irrelevant issues, such as the civil unrest in Syria and Bahrain, as part of the negotiations, could have negative effects on the negotiations in Moscow. Firstly, it will call into question the professionalism and credibility of the Iranian delegates. Those even with limited knowledge of politics would realize how unrealistic such a proposal is. Secondly, countries involved in the talks, such as China and Russia, who are opposing the aggressive policies of the West, will be puzzled by Iran’s emphasis on these issues and will question the country’s dedication to a successful round of talks. Thirdly, these irrational and unrealistic terms renders a golden opportunity to sway the international community towards tougher stance, justify further pressure on Iran or even a possible military attack.
The information gathered by us indicate that sitting at the top of the U.S. and the EU’s agenda is the issue of 20% enriched uranium. In this respect, Iran can propose logical and confidence building terms. Iran may propose to suspend 20% enrichment, convert its existing stockpile of 20 percent-pure uranium to fuel plates under the international supervision in Iran, or, ship the stockpile out of the country in exchange for fuel plates. In return Iran may demand the suspension of any and all of the new sanctions including the two sets of sanctions mentioned before. This will open the door to an endued, meaningful, step by step, and confidence-building negotiation process.
- The Iranian delegation, taking the sensitive timing of these historical talks into consideration, can evoke a positive impression on some of P5+1 members and secure their support by offering “logical and pragmatic” proposals. By doing this, those who watch with anticipation the Iranian envoy to make a mistake will have a difficult time justifying future punishments and sanctions let alone a military attack.
- Iran, in its proposals, should take the domestic politics of the United States into serious consideration. Elections in the U.S. could serve as beneficial or hurtful to Iran and these negotiations. President Obama does not wish to escalate matters with Iran during an election season for fear that a confrontation would likely result in increased gas prices which would negatively affect his campaign. Therefore, President Obama is ready to offer some concessions. But on the other hand, the upcoming election also presents certain obstacles for president Obama. Asking for major concessions from the U.S. will lead to its immediate disapproval, because such an act would signal weakness on the part of the President. Such weakness would translate into defeat for the president at the time of re-election, especially when one keeps in mind that groups sympathetic to the current Israeli government’s policies towards Iran enjoy notable influence in U.S. politics. Thus, Iran should not expect huge demands to be met all at once, but rather incrementally and step by step.
- Iran should not let the Moscow talks reach a deadlock and must make sure that they do not end inconclusively. If these talks fail, in the sense that no future talk is set, a huge campaign against Iran will begin. This campaign would certainly aim to paralyze Iran, which in all likelihood would lead to a military confrontation. Of course Saeed Jalili’s statement that “negotiations for the sake of negotiations” is not acceptable to Iran, is understandable. If the new sanctions are put into effect, continued talks mean that Iran would have to tolerate an immense and most likely irreversible pressure, waiting for Obama to attain victory. Then the question would be, if Obama is re-elected will the sanctions be eased and the relationship improve? There are not enough evidences to support a positive answer to this question.
Therefore, it is clear that negotiation under the bombardment of economic sanctions cannot be sustainable.
At this critical juncture, in which the consequences of failure at the talks are very clear, Iran must decide what strategy it wants to adopt. If Iran intends to prevent further punishments and sanctions, it must be willing to concede certain points, which it, so far, has been reluctant to concede. For example, accept snap inspections by the IAEA, allow inspections of its military facilities and bases, allow its nuclear scientists be interviewed by the IAEA, address the questions and allegations that it has until now claimed baseless and politically motivated, and suspend nuclear activities in Fordow. However, if the decision is made that in the case of the failure of Moscow talks and subsequent escalation of sanctions it will step up resistance and even retaliate, it would be best that the Iranian delegation notify the member states of the Moscow talks and the public of its intentions in advance. The adoption of vindictive policies after the Moscow talks will surprise all parties, and the two sides, that is Iran and the US, will reach a point of no return, in which it is hard to imagine anything but a destructive and catastrophic war.
American Iranian Council
P.O. Box 707, Princeton, NJ 08540
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